ISLAMABAD-The Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services on Friday directed the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) to amend the law for relaxing ban on ‘Sheesha’ smoking in the country.

Meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on NHS was held here in the chair of Senator Muhammad Ateeq Sheikh to discuss public and legislative business on health.

Discussing the public petition moved by All Pakistan Cigarette, Pan and Cold drinks Retailers Association, the chairman said that no law should be made to damage the business of retailers.

“I regret to support the anti-tobacco cell of ministry of NHS for his campaign of banning Sheesha in the country,” he said.

He said that Sheesha is widely smoked everywhere in the world but here it has been banned. “It is banned in public places but people are now smoking it at homes,” he said.

The chairman directed officials to bring an amendment to relax the strict laws of smoking Sheesha at public places.

Senator Dilawar Khan remarked that big investors are being given relief but retailers are being crushed by the policies.

The committee was informed that 700 families faced financial crisis due to ban on display of cigarettes. Chairman Committee Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh directed the Ministry that a middle way must be sought so that these families may be helped without violating international treaties. 

The Health Ministry informed the Committee that this was an administrative decision and it was not involved in it. 

 Taking up the matter of increasing vaccines production at NIH, the committee was informed that a proposal to expand the Vaccines Centre at NIH was underway and that the Institute was currently producing 25000 viols of Snake Venom Serum and 100000 viols of Rabies Vaccines which once expanded will increase to 100000 and 700000 respectively. 

 Discussing the import of medicines and vaccines from India, Senator Abdul Rehman Malik was of the view that in order to curb shortage of Snake Venom Serum and Rabies vaccines, it must be made mandatory for local manufacturer’s to produce these vaccines in addition to profit making medical products.  He said that it was pity that medicines were being imported from India and China when Pakistan is self-sufficient in medical raw material and that vaccines manufactured here would be much more affordable.

Taking up the issue of raised prices and low quality of drugs raised by Senator Kulsom Parveen, the committee recommended that details of tendering of chemists must be submitted.  It also directed that FID must conduct a survey to determine number of fake medication in the market. 

While discussing the PMDC Bill 2019, the Committee directed the organisation that details of procedures for appointment and recognition of honorary degrees must be submitted to the Committee by next week. 

While discussing the progress on the Islamabad Compulsory Vaccination and Protection of Health Workers Bill moved by Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, Chairman Committee, Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh directed the Ministry to accommodate all government changes in the Bill and submit it to the Committee next week. 

The Committee took strict notice of lack of vaccines in provinces especially Sindh and Balochistan.  The Committee was informed that delay in payment from provinces led to shortage.  Chairman Committee, Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh directed NIH to submit SOPs for production and supply of vaccines to the Committee. He also said that the Act must be reviewed and that rules must be mended so that Federal and Provincial Health Institutes may benefit from it.